Family Activities Improve Relationships

Previous research has shown that spending time together in family leisure helps in improving generativity in grandparents and adult grandchildren. Generativity is an emotional quality reflecting concern for future generations. This can involve parenting, teaching, mentoring, religious involvement, volunteering in public activities and family leisure activities between grandparents and adult grandchildren. This current study illustrates the important role that family leisure plays in the experience and expression of generativity. Increased generativity through leisure activities can improve contact among family members, strengthen family relationships and build trust in each other.

An increased lifespan has resulted in more grandchildren experiencing adult relationships with their grandparents. Adults become grandparents much faster, but there have been very few studies done on the relationship and family interaction between grandparents and adult grandchildren. Family leisure is the time spent together by grandchildren and grandparents in recreational activities such as cooking, gardening, etc. In the present study, researchers evaluated the role of family leisure in promoting the relationship between grandparents and adult grandchildren, leading to an expression of generativity. In other words, researchers wanted to test the old saying, “The family that plays together stays together.”

* Fourteen grandparent/adult grandchild pairs were recruited.  All the grandchildren were aged between 18 and 25 years. The average age of grandparents was 74.5 years. Except for one, all grandchildren were single.
* Both grandparents and grandchildren were interviewed separately. This helped in expressing their views honestly and openly.
* They were asked whether spending time together helped in improving the relationship between them and how it improved the generativity.
* The data that was generated was analyzed qualitatively and coded so that a comparison could be made between the participants.

* All the grandparent/adult grandchild pairs agreed that the family leisure helped to improve the expression of generativity. All of them felt family leisure was the most important factor in improving family relationships. Family leisure also helped to strengthen the intergenerational bonds.
* Grandparents felt mentoring and teaching were important roles that they needed to play. There was a notable educational component to the activities that they planned. Family leisure allowed the grandparents and grandchildren to “know each other better.” It encouraged strong intergenerational bonds, formation of shared memories, as well as a better understanding of individual personalities.

The sample size, 14 pairs, was too small and all of them were Caucasian, highly educated, middle-class families. All of them were involved in some form of family leisure. The sample was not a true representation of society at large. Further studies are necessary, which would include people of different ethnicities, all economic groups and also people with different educational levels.

In recent times, because of increased longevity, the older generation is experiencing an adult relationship with their grandchildren. This is because most adults become grandparents much faster. As a result, they can interact with their adult grandchildren more dynamically, resulting in a teaching and learning experience for both. Findings of this study suggest that spending time in family leisure is helpful in improving relationships across generations. Individuals who participate in intergenerational programs have experienced increased life satisfaction, enhanced self-esteem, and increased their knowledge of the values, skills, and culture of the other generation. There is a need to educate families regarding the importance of spending time in family leisure.

For More Information:
Expression of Generativity through Family Leisure: Experiences of Grandparents and Adult Grandchildren
Publication Journal: Family Relations – Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies, February 2011
By Shannon Hebbelethwaite; Joan Norris; Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, and Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario, Canada

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.


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